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Tacoma Police killed a Black man. Now his family demands answers

Manuel Ellis was a 33-year-old Black man killed by officers from the Tacoma Police Department in March.

On Thursday, Ellis’ family spoke out after a Pierce County medical examiner’s report declared the death a homicide.

Manuel Ellis, or "Manny" as his family knew him, died on March 3, 2020.

A report from the medical examiner declared his death a homicide, based on hypoxia, meaning Ellis couldn’t breathe when he was restrained by police officers.

Methamphetamine intoxication and cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart, were also contributing factors, according to the report. His family is transparent that Ellis dealt with addiction and mental health issues, but explain on their GoFundMe page that he was "continuing to grow in the fullness of his potential."

On the night of his death, he was wrapping up a music session at the church where he played the drums.

In an audio recording of the police scanner later that night, he can be heard saying, "I can't breathe." New video footage of the event has also come to light thanks to social media.

Those are also the painful last words uttered by George Floyd and a chant repeated across America at hundreds of protests over the past week.

James Bible, the lawyer for the family says that, "The harsh reality is that Black voices are rarely believed."

For the family, the timing of the medical examiner's report alongside national protests is painful yet necessary.

Ellis' sister Monet Carter-Mixon said during a news conference Thursday, "If it wasn’t for me and Manny’s friend, screaming at the top of our lungs and George Floyd dying, this would of got brushed under the rug."

The Pierce County Sheriff’s office is currently investigating the death, but the family wants an independent investigation and is calling on the Washington Attorney General and other state and local officials to see it through.

"They all need to be held accountable. Specifically the two police officers that murdered my brother," Carter-Mixon said.

"And every elected official, if we find out that you knew? You should be replaced immediately. We can't have people like you representing us. You don't represent me. You don't represent my struggle. You don't represent Tacoma."

Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell offered his condolences to the family and said the department had cooperated with the ongoing investigation and would continue to do so for any future independent investigation.

He added the four officers involved in the case have been placed on administrative leave.

In a statement Thursday, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodard says she plans to bring this matter up on Friday with the Tacoma City Council.

On a late night live stream Thursday, Woodards followed that statement with new fervor.

"As I watched that video, I became even more enraged and angered and disappointed. And while I am mayor I am still Black. I don't get to take off this skin. My life could be taken. And today it stops in Tacoma."

Woodards called on the Tacoma Police Department to fire the police officers involved and for them to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

She also stated she would ask the Tacoma City Manager to allocate funds for body cameras for law enforcement.

"We live in a nation where too many Black lives have been lost. And I don't want to see another one. Making changes is difficult, but Black people have been making changes all of our lives."

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